What’s that bank of desks where people sit making and answering calls? It's what we call a call center. Most people have likely seen one, called one, or even worked in one. For years, call centers have been the backbone of communications between businesses and their customers, but that’s about to change.
While phone calls were incredibly common back in the day, the younger generations today don't seem to like making them. According to modern research, around 70 percent of Millennials and Gen Z prefer messaging over calling. Data from Harvard Business Review shows that 81 percent of customers will choose self-service options instead of those that require speaking to another person.
In this digital age, organizations need a new solution to reach their customers. This new solution is the omnichannel contact center, which can also be deployed as a service.
The term contact center includes call centers, where teams of customer service agents only make and receive phone calls. Modern contact centers also include multichannel or omnichannel systems that allow agents to handle transactions through email, social media, web-based chat and other digital channels.
Through contact center software, agents manage customer transactions. This software includes many customer management features such as call handling, reports, and queue visualizations.
Many organizations choose to deploy their contact centers as a service. This allows them to access all the features of the contact center without time-consuming setups or on-premises equipment. Their users barely even need to take up space on their hard drives.
The primary users of the contact center are part of the contact center department. This department is often a whole team of people responsible for all communication included in the contact center and typically includes specialist roles like quality assurance and resource planning.
Contact centers can be broken down into six major categories. While they all streamline communication and improve the customer experience, each different type may help certain organizations more than others.
Inbound contact centers only handle inbound communication. Teams that run these contact centers will answer calls, but not make them. They often include call routing features such as auto-attendants, interactive voice response (IVR), and call queues. Along with calls, they can be adjusted to support other channels like web chat and social media.
The opposite of an inbound contact center, outbound centers are run by teams that reach out to customers to start new transactions. Companies use outbound call centers to grow sales, generate leads, conduct surveys, collect market research, set appointments, and proactively deliver customer service.
A multichannel contact center handles both inbound and outbound communication across multiple channels. One team manages calling, email, chat, and other channels across social media. It does all of this while keeping the calling and reporting features of the other contact center types.
An omnichannel contact center is like a multichannel contact center, except it connects all the channels in one place. It unifies communication between agents and customers, making it easier for customers to follow up and for agents to improve the customer experience.
Modern contact centers are mostly cloud-based, but the on-premises variety still exists in certain spaces. Legislation sometimes dictates that customer data must not leave the premises. Organizations such as these install contact center hardware and then integrate it with their existing telephony environment.
With how long deployments may take and how costly hardware can be, an on-premises contact center is rarely a good choice.
Cloud-based contact centers provide their software via the internet. With a username and password, agents can access everything they need on a single screen. These contact centers are almost always managed by their providers, making them contact centers as a service (CCaaS).
The diverse types of contact centers each come with their own benefits, and different ones will better suit different organizations. It’s important to note that they’re not all mutually exclusive. It’s possible to find a virtual, omnichannel contact center that manages both inbound and outbound communication.
The biggest difference between contact centers and call centers is obvious. Where contact centers handle customer interactions in many different channels, call centers are voice only. This means call centers can lack expansion capabilities, won’t be able to leverage advanced AI quite as well, and won’t be able to escalate customer interactions via other channels.
That doesn’t mean call centers are obsolete. For companies primarily focused on managing call flows, a call center can still be very useful. For companies whose customers primarily or only reach them via phone calls, call centers are no less than essential. Organizations like this can benefit from a cloud based call center just as much as an omnichannel contact center.
Contact Center providers, such as Five9 and Genesys, offer omnichannel contact centers with a full suite of essential features. Here are the top ten features of the best contact centers.
The best contact centers integrate customer relationship management (CRM) apps. This allows agents to personalize the customer experience and better track longstanding issues. By keeping an exact record of the customer’s information and transaction history, even new agents can easily meet their customers’ needs.
Call routing is a set of rules that sends inbound calls to any person or team in real time. Depending on the needs of the organization, these rules can be simple or complex. A simple rule may choose to route calls in a round robin, or simply choose the agent that’s answered the least calls that day. More complex rules may include an auto attendant, routing callers to the right agents based on which options they choose.
Contact centers can be expanded further with more advanced call routing rules. Auto attendants empowered with AI can route calls based on spoken commands from the caller. AI can also manage data in real time, making sure that customers get to the right agents every time.
Does anyone really like waiting on the phone?
Website chat allows agents and even auto attendants to answer common questions customers would otherwise call to ask. Many website chats have built in questions that, once answered, allow users to easily route customers to the right chatter. This is especially useful when hold times are long.
Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Twitter, or Instagram, modern contact centers connect agents and customers on any social media channel. Allowing customers to connect directly through social media reduces friction and wait time, improving the experience for both parties.
A fully integrated support center helps customers learn everything they need to know in one place. These support centers give customers access to support materials, chat, and other methods of contacting agents. This combined support environment makes customers happier and more productive.
Workforce management software uses data to estimate the number of agents needed to manage calls at any given time. This takes randomness out of staff allocation. Holidays and times of emergency become much easier to manage with data on your side.
A customer’s experience often goes beyond a single call or email. Customer experience analytics allow contact center users to view every interaction between the customer and the organization, including long web chats, strongly worded emails, and rants on social media.
This can add a lot of context to the user’s conversation with the customer. It can also find flaws in the system that are hampering the customer experience, such as connections to the wrong agents or increased wait times due to outages.
While customer experience analytics apply to a customer’s entire journey, conversational analytics apply to a specific conversation. Using both voice and written channels, these analytics can track things like raised voices and other emotional responses. Whether this data is indicative of positive or negative feedback, it can be used to find what conversation tactics work and which agents need more training.
Quality monitoring software checks call data to ensure the contact center and its agents are making the customer experience as high quality as possible. After selecting contacts randomly or via flags, you’ll be able to identify and escalate repeat issues.
When deploying a new contact center solution, organizations have a lot of decisions to make. What type of contact center best fits their needs? What features should that contact center have?
Fortunately, experienced contact center providers can help any organization design the right contact center solution. Two of these providers are Five9 and Genesys.
Established in 2001, Five9’s central focus is creating “powerful” customer connections. Even with the integration of artificial intelligence, these connections form a very human experience for customers and agents alike, while also allowing businesses to increase agility and reduce costs.
With so many years of experience in the contact center field, Five9 has excellent solutions for almost every industry. For healthcare organizations, Five9’s intelligent virtual agents can free up human agents for more important tasks, while its advanced security can ensure HIPAA compliance. For retail organizations, a Five9 contact center can make agents happy by giving them more opportunities to work from home and make customers happy by adding customer context to conversations.
Five9 isn’t only good for massive healthcare conglomerates or retail chains. Small businesses can greatly benefit from its cloud-based infrastructure, low upfront cost, and relative ease of use.
Genesys’ industry experience goes back even further than Five9’s. They’ve been at the forefront of the call center’s evolution into the modern cloud-based contact center and have developed their solutions using data they’ve gathered over the years.
According to Genesys’ “State of the Customer Experience” report, 33% of customers switched brands in the past year due to negative experience. To help businesses avoid this problem, Genesys offers omnichannel contact center software with vast customization options. A Genesys contact center can use AI to improve agent efficiency and can be integrated with more than 350 third-party apps.
The all-in-one solution, Genesys Cloud CX, helps make the customer experience effortless. According to one of Genesys’ own case studies, this solution had a 94% average response rate, 90% first call resolution, and a 20% boost in agent productivity. To make things even better, Genesys support boasts 99.99% uptime, making its contact center the most reliable solution on the market.
As the name implies, Anywhere365 is an omnichannel contact center designed especially for Microsoft Teams. It benefits tremendously from the app integrations and security features Microsoft is known for and gives its users the power to rethink business communications.
CRM software and AI allow Anywhere365 to greatly improve the customer experience. On average, its users save as much as 45 seconds per agent, per contact. It also boasts one of the most easy-to-use interfaces in the industry. With Anywhere365, even inexperienced users can get the most out of its advanced features.
Cisco has been around for a long time. Businesses all around the world have been powered by Cisco call centers since the 1990s. Now, Cisco provides its contact centers in the cloud, dramatically improving user ROI and customer experience.
The Cisco Unified Contact Center is perfect for small to medium contact centers. It’s a secure, sophisticated, and intelligent solution that can support up to 400 agents with advanced customer data insight and workforce optimization.
Cisco also has the Webex Cloud Contact Center. With high security and advanced collaboration features, it empowers agents and supervisors alike to run a truly modern contact center. As part of Webex, it’s easy to deploy and use for existing Cisco users.
With more than 30 years in the industry, NICE’s passion is elevating customer experience and solving contact center problems. The NICE CXone allows users to grow revenue, empower employees, boost customer loyalty, and transform contact centers with AI.
Enlighten AI is NICE’s claim to fame, and it comes with a wide variety of features. Enlighten Autopilot creates virtual assistants that can guide customers through self-service. Enlighten AI Routing uses CX data to connect customers with the right agent. Enlighten AutoSummary automates note taking during customer interactions, making sure agents never miss critical information.
CCaaS is not to be confused with UCaaS, though the two are only one letter apart. UCaaS (unified communications as a service) provides organizations with unified communication solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom. These platforms allow communication between users within an organization. Conversely, CCaaS provides solutions that connect users inside the organization with contacts outside of the organization.
Both UCaaS and CCaaS are extremely useful for modern organizations, but they’re not the same, and one single solution won’t cover both needs.
When looking for the right contact center, there are six key areas worth considering:
To help take the difficulty out of choosing the right contact center, CCaaS providers such as Five9 and Genesys have partners who specialize in designing and deploying ideal contact center solutions for organizations of all kinds. Continuant is one of those partners. By working alongside you, we can help you figure out the exact type of contact center that best meets your needs, whether it comes from Five9 or Zoom.
Continuant, a Managed Services Provider and Systems Integrator, offering world-class solutions for Cloud, Voice Systems, Networking, UC, and AV. From UC and AV solution design and installation to post-installation support, Continuant focuses on delivering exceptional service to the enterprise. We manage complex...